Art director


Art directors shape the visual layout of a concept. They create innovative designs, develop artistic projects  and manage the cooperation between all aspects involved. Art directors may perform creative work in theatre, marketing, advertising, video and motion picture, fashion or online companies. They ensure that the work performed is visually appealing to audiences.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to art director:

advertising art director
creative director
visual art director
artistic projects manager
stage director

Minimum qualifications

Bachelor’s degree is generally required to work as art director. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Art director is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Art director career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to art director.

stage director
casting director
technical director
lighting director
post-production supervisor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of art director. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of art director with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of art director.

Personal directing styles: Understand and analyse the behaviour of specific directors.
Design principles: The elements used in design such as unity, scale, proportion, balance, symmetry, space, form, texture, colour, light, shade and congruence and their application into practice.
Business strategy concepts: The terminology related to the design and implementation of major trends and aims which are taken by an organisation’s executives, while keeping in mind its resources, competition and environments.
Health and safety regulations: Necessary health, safety, hygiene and environmental standards and legislation rules in the sector of particular activity.
Theatre techniques: Understand techniques that facilitate a successful presentation of a play.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of art director.

Create solutions to problems: Solve problems which arise in planning, prioritising, organising, directing/facilitating action and evaluating performance. Use systematic processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesising information to evaluate current practice and generate new understandings about practice.
Follow time cues: Observe the conductor, orchestra or director and follow text and vocal score to time cues accurately.
Read scripts: Read a playbook or film script, not only as literature, but identifying, actions, emotional states, evolution of characters, situations, different sets and locations, etc.
Consult with producer: Consult with a motion picture producer about requirements, deadlines, budget, and other specifications.
Manage budgets: Plan, monitor and report on the budget.
Work with playwrights: Work with writers through workshops or script development schemes.
Cue a performance: Plan the technical actions and interventions during an artistic performance. Determine when actors go on and off stage. Make sure these cues are followed to ensure a smooth running of the performance.
Assemble an artistic team: Bring together an artistic team, after identifying the needs, looking for candidates, conducting interviews and aligning on the conditions of the project.
Finish project within budget: Make sure to stay within budget. Adapt work and materials to budget.
Determine visual concepts: Determine how best to represent a concept visually.
Develop creative ideas: Developing new artistic concepts and creative ideas.
Analyse the need for technical resources: Define and make a list of the required resources and equipment based on the technical needs of the production.
Analyse a script: Break down a script by analysing the dramaturgy, form, themes and structure of a script. Conduct relevant research if necessary.
Direct an artistic team: Lead and instruct a complete team with the required cultural expertise and experience.
Develop professional network: Reach out to and meet up with people in a professional context. Find common ground and use your contacts for mutual benefit. Keep track of the people in your personal professional network and stay up to date on their activities.
Develop design concept: Research information to develop new ideas and concepts for the design of a specific production. Read scripts and consult directors and other production staff members, in order to develop design concepts and plan productions.
Keep up with trends: Monitor and follow new trends and developments in specific sectors.
Create new concepts: Come up with new concepts.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of art director. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Trends in fashion: New developments and trends in the world of fashion.
Music and video industry: Players and products available on the market in the video and music industry.
Cultural projects: The purpose, organisation and management of cultural projects and related fundraising actions.
Musical instruments: The different musical instruments, their ranges, timbre, and possible combinations.
Photography: Art and practice of creating aesthetically appealing images by recording light or electromagnetic radiation.
Digital marketing techniques: The marketing techniques used on the web to reach and engage with stakeholders, customers and clients.
Film production process: The various development stages of making a film, such as scriptwriting, financing, shooting, editing, and distribution.
Social media marketing techniques: The marketing methods and strategies used to increase attention and website traffic through social media channels.
Musical genres: Different musical styles and genres such as blues, jazz, reggae, rock, or indie.
Technical drawings: Drawing software and the various symbols, perspectives, units of measurement, notation systems, visual styles and page layouts used in technical drawings.
Marketing management: The academic discipline and function in an organisation which focuses on the market research, market development, and the creation of marketing campaigns to raise awareness on the company’s services and products.
Graphic design: The techniques to create a visual representation of ideas and messages.
Acting and directing techniques: Range of training and rehearsal techniches that seek to encourage emotionally expressive performances. Techniques to address all aspects in making a film, play, performance in general. 
Computer equipment: The offered computers, computer peripheral equipment and software products, their functionalities, properties and legal and regulatory requirements.
Multimedia systems: The methods, procedures and techniques pertaining to the operation of multimedia systems, usually a combination of software and hardware, presenting various types of media such as video and audio.
Advertising techniques: The communication strategies intended to persuade or encourage an audience, and the different media which are used to achieve this goal.
History of fashion: Costumes and the cultural traditions around clothing.
Lighting techniques: The characteristics of techniques used to create atmospheres and effects on camera or on stage; the equipment required and appropriate setup to use.
Marketing principles: The principles of managing the relationship between consumers and products or services for the purpose of increasing sales and improving advertising techniques.
Audiovisual equipment: The characteristics and usage of different tools that stimulate the sight and audio senses.
Cinematography: The science of recording light and electromagnetic radiation in order to create a motion picture. The recording can happen electronically with an image sensor or chemically on light sensitive materials such as film stock.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of art director. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Select music for performance: Select pieces of music for a live performance. Consider factors such as ensemble abilities, availability of scores and the need for musical variety.
Organise rehearsals: Manage, schedule and run rehearsals for the performance.
Work with motion picture editing team: Work together with the motion picture editing team during post-production. Make sure the finished product is according to specifications and creative vision.
Liaise with cultural partners: Establish and maintain sustainable partnerships with cultural authorities, sponsors and other cultural institutions.
Define artistic vision: Continually develop and define a concrete artistic vision, starting from the proposal and continuing all the way through to the finished product.
Manage staff: Manage employees and subordinates, working in a team or individually, to maximise their performance and contribution. Schedule their work and activities, give instructions, motivate and direct the workers to meet the company objectives. Monitor and measure how an employee undertakes their responsibilities and how well these activities are executed. Identify areas for improvement and make suggestions to achieve this. Lead a group of people to help them achieve goals and maintain an effective working relationship among staff.
Plan musical performances: Schedule rehearsals and music performances, arrange details such as locations, select accompanists and instrumentalists.
Coordinate with creative departments: Coordinate activities with other artistic and creative departments.
Evaluate advertising campaign: Assess the performance of the advertising campaign after implementation and conclusion. Check if objectives were met and if the campaign was successful.
Approve advertising campaign: Check all advertising material such as leaflets, websites, television commercials and newspaper ads to make sure they comply with the advertising strategy and customer requirements. Approve the way of distribution.
Promote cultural venue events: Work together with museum or any art facility staff to develop and promote its events and programme.
Maintain blocking notes: Create and update blocking notes recording the position of actors and props in every scene. These notes are shared with the director, technical director and cast.
Lead cast and crew: Lead a film or theatre cast and crew. Brief them about the creative vision, what they need to do and where they need to be. Manage day-to-day production activities to ensure things run smoothly.
Translate artistic concepts to technical designs: Cooperate with the artistic team in order to facilitate the transition from the creative vision and its artistic concepts to a technical design.
Manage contracts: Negotiate the terms, conditions, costs and other specifications of a contract while making sure they comply with legal requirements and are legally enforceable. Oversee the execution of the contract, agree on and document any changes.
Contact talent agents: Contact agents in charge of finding jobs for writers, actors, musicians, and other professionals in the entertainment and broadcasting businesses and maintain good relations with them.
Search databases: Search for information or people using databases.
Manage prompt book: Prepare, create and maintain the prompt book for a theatrical production.
Create production schedules: Create the timeline for the production of a motion picture, broadcast program or artistic production. Decide how long each phase will take and what its requirements are. Take into account the existing schedules of the production team and create a viable schedule. Inform the team of the schedule.
Coordinate advertising campaigns: Organise course of action to promote a product or service; oversee the production of TV advertisements, newspaper and magazine ads, suggest mail packs, email campaigns, websites, stands and other advertising channels
Work with video and motion picture production team: Work with the cast and crew members to establish requirements and budgets.
Work with pre-production team: Consult with the pre-production team about expectations, requirements, budget, etc.
Supervise equipment: Start up and shut down equipment; identify and troubleshoot technical problems and conduct minor repairs. Monitor control equipment in order to identify safety and environmental hazards.
Perform project management: Manage and plan various resources, such as human resources, budget, deadline, results, and quality necessary for a specific project, and monitor the project’s progress in order to achieve a specific goal within a set time and budget.
Use technical documentation: Understand and use technical documentation in the overall technical process.
Check material rescources: Verify that all requested resources are delivered and in good working order. Notify the appropriate person or people of any problems related to technical and material resources.
Coordinate artistic production: Oversee the day-to-day coordination of production tasks so that the organisation fits within the desired artistic and business policies and in order to present productions in a uniform corporate identity to the public.
Evaluate art quality: Correctly evaluate the quality of art objects, artefacts, photographs and documents.
Carry out auditions: Hold auditions and assess and select candidates for roles in the productions.
Estimate duration of work: Produce accurate calculations on time necessary to fulfil future technical tasks based on past and present information and observations or plan the estimated duration of individual tasks in a given project.
Discover acting talent: Identify existing talented actors or discover new ones.
Negotiate with artists: Communicate and negotiate with artist and artist management about prices, terms and schedules.
Carry out interviews to select artistic team members: Determine the content, physical and material conditions of the interview. Describe the project parameters. Evaluate personal, artistic and technical skills according to casting requirements, and candidates’ interest in the project.
Ensure visual quality of the set: Inspect and amend the scenery and set-dressing to make sure the visual quality is optimal with in constraints of time, budget and manpower.
Coordinate technical teams in artistic productions: Plan, coordinate and supervise the work of the technical teams such as scene, wardrobe, light and sound, make-up and hairdressing and props during set-up, rehearsals, performances and dismantling.

ISCO group and title

2166 – Graphic and multimedia designers





  1. Art director – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022